The Tension in Creation
We begin by quoting the Apostle Paul in his comment about the problem of creation in Romans 8:19-22,
19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope [expectation] 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Paul makes it clear that the creation had no choice in being subjected to "futility" and to "slavery to corruption." It was done by the sovereign will of God alone. Futility, vanity, or emptiness describe a path that appears to go nowhere and has no purpose. When Adam sinned, his sin was imputed to all mankind. We all became liable for Adam's sin, and thus we are all mortal, paying for a sin which we did not commit. And not only mankind, but ALL OF CREATION was subjected to this "corruption."
It is contrary to the divine law for anyone to impute a father's sin upon the children. Deuteronomy 24:16 says:
16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.
This Law is repeated in Ezekiel 18:20, which says:
20 The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
Children were not to be punished for the sins of their father. And yet this is precisely what God did with us. The fact that all of Adam's children are born mortal proves that we are paying for a sin committed by our father (Romans 5:12). Adam's children were put to death for the sin of their father Adam. Did God not know that this was unjust? Of course He did! After all, He had prohibited such injustice by His own law, revealed to Moses and confirmed by Ezekiel.
This raises the most basic question about the justice of God. Death was imposed upon us outside our will, and this is the root cause of all personal sins committed after Adam's original sin. We are being held liable for a sin of our father, Adam. We cannot hide this issue and hope it goes unnoticed by God's critics. Nor can we theologize it away after God clearly takes the credit for holding us liable.
In dealing with this problem, we must first know that He is just, and have faith that He knows what He is doing. We must align ourselves with His plan, rather than attempt to alter His plan to fit what we think He should have done.
In looking at the way God imputed Adam's sin to his descendants, and the divine law which prohibits such behavior, we do not hesitate to call God's action a "temporary injustice," which is the direct cause of the Tension in the history of creation. Tension is the result of injustice or disharmony while it is yet unresolved. It has many applications. When a nation wrongs another, tension is set up, often leading to war. When an individual wrongs another, tension is in the air until restitution is made. Tension always demands a resolution.
In music there are certain chords which contain conflicting or discordant notes. These chords set up an emotional tension until the chord is resolved. This is a very common musical technique, used to play upon the emotions of the listener and draw him into the music by forcing him psychologically to demand harmony. Discord torments the mind of the musician, in order to maximize the feeling of relief when the harmonious chord is struck and the tension resolved.
It is much like the cliffhangers in books or television programs. All are temporary tensions designed to make the listeners demand a resolution.
God, too, has employed this technique in the music of the spheres and in the book of history. Imputing death and corruption to mankind and to creation in general has produced a judicial tension that demands resolution. Paul says that God certainly will not leave creation hanging. The disharmony and injustice is only temporary. In fact, Paul says that the injustice that caused the tension will be MORE THAN COMPENSATED when the final chord of history is struck. And so Paul reminds us in Romans 8:18,
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
And again, he says in 2 Corinthians 4:17,
17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
Paul is reminding us that the injustices of life are not only temporary, but will be more than righted at the last day when He restores all things.
Justice and Liability for Evil
The justice of God has been a matter of philosophical debate for thousands of years. In fact, all religions must deal with this question sooner or later. What is the origin of evil? What is its purpose? How will it end? Is there really justice with God? Some even question the existence of God on the grounds that "if there were really a God, why would He allow all these wars and other terrible things to happen?"
Each religion's solution to these age-old problems gives character to its own particular god. We have already raised questions about the justice of God of the Bible in view of the things He does by His own sovereign will, or plan. Recall that Paul, too, questioned God's righteousness in dealing with Pharaoh (Rom. 9:14). Every time we talk about Esau, Pharaoh, or others who seem to have been treated unjustly, we raise the level of tension that must be resolved. And that is the purpose of this final section of our study.
The real underlying question that we must deal with is the liability for sin. How liable is man for his sin? How liable is God for His actions in subjecting the creation to the bondage of corruption? God always assumes full responsibility for all of His actions, and, of course, man must follow His example. Man always resists God's will (thelema), but Paul says that no man can resist God's plan (boulema). Yet before we can understand this question in any depth, we must define our terms.
The Definition of Sin
Man sins because he is mortal. He is mortal because God made him liable for the original sin of his father Adam. Therefore, God is the direct cause of man's weak (mortal) condition and the indirect cause of his personal sins. The question is: Does this make God a sinner? We immediately answer, NO. Is God liable in any way for man's sin? We immediately answer, YES. This is one reason why He made Himself liable for our sin through Jesus Christ, and then paid the penalty for sin.
We do NOT agree that this makes God a sinner, but only that He has made Himself ultimately liable by His own law. To prove this, we must first look at the meaning of the word that is translated "sin" in the Scriptures.
The Hebrew word for "sin" is khawtaw. It is translated "sin" in over 400 Bible passages. Yet the word literally means "to miss the mark," or "to fail to reach a goal." In the physical sense, the word can be used in the case of an archer whose arrow misses the target. Judges 20:16 gives us another example:
16 Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss (khawtaw, "to sin, or miss").
In the moral sense, the target, goal, or standard is the divine Law (1 John 3:4). Any transgression of the Law is "sin," because the Law is God's standard of righteousness. A sinner is one who has fallen short of perfection as defined in the Law. Paul alludes to this meaning when he writes in Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The glory of God here is the target. We have all fallen short of the target, failing to attain to that perfect goal.
Essentially, then, sin is a failure to reach a particular goal. God created His own goal: to create the universe, to allow man to fall into death and sin, and then to reconcile creation with justice and grace. To teach us justice, it was necessary for man to fall into sin. To implement grace, God needed sinners as the objects of grace.
And so we ask ourselves: Will God fail to carry out His plan? Must He reach for "Plan B?" If so, then God is a failure, hence a sinner. But God is not a sinner, nor is He a failure. Nothing took Him by surprise, for He foreknew all things. Nothing was out of control, even for a split second, for God is all-powerful. From the beginning it was in God's plan to create a temporary injustice and to spread it out on a finite time line which we call history.
Many people unknowingly accuse God of being a sinner, because they have not been taught the simple biblical definition of sin. As children we learned the chorus, "Jesus Never Fails," and often this motto is portrayed upon the walls of Christian homes. But when we grow older, we often are taught that Satan and men have the ability to thwart God's plan and purpose for creation. God wrings His hands in despair, like a helpless giant in the sky, loudly complaining about man's condition, but fully bound by the law of free will to do anything about it. Plan after plan fails, and so God is thought to be changing plans constantly in an attempt to salvage as much as He can out of this world mess, before He is forced to destroy nearly everything. Satan is said to win perhaps 90-99 percent of the world, but somehow God is given the victor's wreath.
While God is so often portrayed as an all-powerful, but helpless giant, the devil is portrayed as being NEARLY as powerful as God Himself. But his advantage is that he cares nothing about man's free will. He is said to have a free hand in manipulating and causing men to sin in ways that God could never do to establish righteousness. In the way many Christians have been taught to view these age-old questions, Satan seems to fail far less than God does. And finally, when it is all over, Satan wins with 99% of mankind, while God is left with a paltry 1-10% of creation with which to populate the kingdom of light. This was essentially the position of Augustine in his City of God, where history ends with a final separation of light and darkness, with Satan being a success (and punished for it!), while God is viewed as the sore loser-thus, the sinner, the helpless Giant who failed.
This view of both God and Satan has serious flaws that need to be rectified by some serious Bible study.
The Definition of Evil
Neither "sin" nor "evil" are necessarily moral terms. Both are used in a moral sense many times, but they are not always to be applied morally. In the case of "sin," we have already seen how it may refer to Benjamites missing a target with stones. In the case of "evil," it is the same.
Probably the simplest definition of evil is this: evil is anything bad or adverse that happens from MY earthly point of view. It includes all calamities that may occur, such as earthquakes, whirlwinds, famines, and pestilence. It also includes all judgment for moral sins. We are told in the Bible that God brings evils upon an individual, a city, a nation, or even the whole world in accordance to the Law. Often these "evils" take the form of wars, earthquakes, or famines. We normally think of these things as God's righteous judgments against the ungodly.
When these things happen to Christians who do not believe they have done anything wrong, they have a habit of blaming the devil for attacking the righteous. Other Christians, though, who suffer from inner guilt and fear, often assume that God is angry with them when such troubles occur. These are rather simplistic views that are more often incorrect than correct. While it is true that all evil is judgment for sin, we must understand that most evil that befalls men is either a result of Adam's sin in general or the result of the corporate sin of the nation. Individuals are, of course, affected by such judgments, because they are held liable for the sins of those in authority over them.
When a "natural" disaster occurs, many people are left asking why this happened. We often hear comments like, "Why is God so angry with us?" The victims of such "evil" befalling a city or nation should realize that God's judgments are not usually directed at them for their sin, but for the corporate sin of the nation or its leadership. The people pay the price for the sins of their leadership. Only those who hear and obey God's voice are divinely protected-but even then, such people are often subjected to the liability of the nation when called as intercessors. (See our book, Principles of Intercession.)
Evil itself is not sin, for Amos 3:6 says, "shall there be evil in a city; and the LORD hath not done it?" Evil is not sin, for God does evil, but does not sin. Likewise, as parents, we may bring "evil" upon our children (from their point of view) when we discipline them. Children seldom agree with their parents in matters of discipline. Evil becomes sin only when it is done apart from the perfect will of God.
Finally, the governments of man have often proclaimed or acted upon the assumption that the end justifies the means, that they may do evil toward an individual for the greater good of the community. In this they have made themselves gods. Invariably, the greater good that they claim to establish never comes, and the people are mistreated and destroyed. Only God Himself has the capability of bringing good out of evil (Rom. 8:28). When men attempt to do this, they merely destroy people, and no good comes out of it. In fact, generally speaking, all the evil which they claim to be doing for the public good is really to consolidate their own power or to increase their own wealth.
The Origin of Evil
The Bible says that all things were created by God through Jesus Christ. John 1:3 reads,
3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Paul also testifies to this in 1 Corinthians 8:6.
6 Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
There are some widely divergent views on Satan, and it is not our purpose here to take up this matter. It is enough to say that Satan, whatever or whoever this is, was CREATED BY GOD. No other point is relevant to our present discussion. Nearly every Christian view agrees with this, so we will not pursue this further.
The real question-a question that has provoked much heated discussion for millennia-is the origin of evil.
The foremost problem that philosophers and theologians in the past have had to resolve is how a perfect and just God could either cause or permit evil in the creation. Nearly all of them have made the assumption that God could neither create nor cause evil without tainting His character. Consequently, they have all attempted to shift the responsibility to others, either to Satan or to men.
The Persians were probably the most successful in removing from God all responsibility for evil. They taught that Satan was co-equal and co-eternal with God. Thus, all evil in the world originated and was propagated totally outside the jurisdiction of God, and outside his power to prevent it. This removed all liability from God's account. However, this was only done at the expense of His sovereignty, for now there were TWO GODS of equal strength and duration in the universe. The Bible clearly begs to differ with this view.
The pagan Greeks, who believed that spirit was good and matter was evil, did not believe that a good God could create matter without tainting His good character. So, as we explained in an earlier chapter, they believed that the creator of all things was an evil Demiurge, a lesser, evil god. However, they were never able to figure out how the good God could create an evil Demiurge in the first place.
This "solution" reduced the problem, but it did not eradicate it. It removed God from all direct liability for the sin in the world; yet God was still indirectly responsible by creating the Demiurge or allowing him to be created and allowing him to do his evil work.
The Church, like the Greeks, has often put the blame for the origin of evil entirely upon Satan. The purpose of this argument is to remove from God any liability for sin. The thought is admirable, but unfortunately it does this at the expense of His sovereignty. It forces us to think of Satan as an independent god-an angel originally created good but who fell out of his own free will. That view gives men the impression that God has no control over Satan, or if He does, then God is helpless to do anything about it, except to attempt to influence men to do good and reject evil.
Furthermore, in putting all the blame on Satan, this view succeeds in separating God from directly causing evil, but it has never succeeded in separating God from indirectly causing evil by creating Satan in the first place. The only way to make God totally free of liability would be to insist that Satan took God totally by surprise when he fell. This, however, makes God less than omniscient (knowing all things).
The justice and goodness of God is correctly assumed in most Christian circles. How we resolve the philosophical problem is the subject of much debate and depends upon other assumptions. The Calvinist viewpoint attempts to resolve the issue by preserving the sovereignty of God, but it does so at the expense of His justice. In other words, they say that God has sovereignly elected a small remnant for salvation, and the rest have been elected to burn in hell. The Arminian viewpoint attempts to resolve the issue by preserving God's justice at the expense of His sovereignty. In other words, they say that man has total free will and that God can do little or nothing to overrule either Satan or man.
The problem is like a short blanket. The longer one end is, the shorter the other end. In vain we pull the blanket up to cover our chins, for as we do, we leave our toes exposed. It is one of the most unresolvable problems of the universe. Philosophers of all religious persuasions have struggled with it for a long time as well.
God is the Creator of Both Good and Evil
The Bible makes no apology for the fact that God is the Creator of all and the cause of evil. While Christians may shrink from this and consider it "blasphemous," the Bible boldly makes such statements with no thought of such an assertion tainting His character. Isaiah 45:7 plainly says:
7 The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity [ra, "evil"]; I am the LORD who does all these.
As we saw earlier, God unashamedly takes full credit for the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, proving His sovereignty, but totally ignoring the problem of justice. The Old Testament simply assumes that men are aware that He is sovereign, and that He has His agenda in history, His plan, which shall be fulfilled. It is as natural for God to create evil as it is for Him to create darkness. God raises up His own opposition in the persons of Pharaoh and Esau, with no judicial apology.
It is, perhaps, for this reason that the Apostle Paul, when confronted by charges that God may be unjust in doing this, merely says, "Who are you to question God? Do you not know that He is the Potter, and we are only the clay?" (Romans 9:20 and 21) He was only paraphrasing Isaiah 45:9-11, which says:
9 Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, "What are you doing?" Or the thing you are making say, "He has no hands?" 10 Woe to him who says to a father, "What are you begetting?" Or to a woman, "To what are you giving birth?" 11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: "Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, and you shall commit to Me the work of My hands.
In other words, if you want to argue, or "strive," go argue with someone on your own level, another broken piece of pottery. How dare the clay question the Potter? How dare we question God's competency or tell God how to run the universe? We must first recognize our place. We must agree that God is sovereign and that He knows what he is doing. With that faith, we may approach Him, asking for greater understanding in order that we might conform to His Image.
Verse 11 is translated a little differently in the Concordant Version, which seems to clarify the thought better:
11 Yet concerning My sons, and concerning My daughters, and concerning the contrivance of My hands are you instructing Me!
In other words, considering the fact that we are only clay vessels, and that God is the Potter of the clay, how dare we instruct God! Do we really think we are so wise and powerful? Do we dare to tell God that He "has no hands?" Do we think of Him as handicapped and in need of our help and advice? Who do we think we are?
Paul was very much impressed by Isaiah 45, for he uses it as the basis for at least four main doctrines in the book of Romans:
(1) That God is sovereign (Is. 45:9-14);
(2) That God creates both light and darkness, good and evil (Is. 45:7);
(3) That God will save "all Israel," not just the nation but "all the seed of Israel" (Is. 45:17, 25);
(4) That He will save all the ends of the earth, and that every knee will bow to Him (Is. 45:22, 23).
Without a thorough knowledge of this chapter in Isaiah, one cannot understand Romans 5 and Romans 9-11.
Like Paul, Job also understood that God was ultimately the Author of both good and evil. It was revealed to him that Satan needed God's permission to tempt men (Job 1:6-12). So he said in 2:10:
10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
The word translated "adversity" is ra, the word normally translated "evil." Many evil things had happened to Job. The biblical account tells us that Satan had to get permission from God to afflict Job (1:6-12). God gave Satan permission, and that is when the disasters, or "evils" began to happen to him. First, Job's servants were killed by Sabeans, then Chaldeans killed more servants and stole his camels, and then a tornado destroyed the house, killing all his children. Finally, Satan got permission from God to afflict Job with boils (2:7).
In the story all these things were obviously brought about by Satan, and yet nothing happened without God's express permission. God could have prevented this, but chose not to do so. God did not sin in this, but Job knew that God was responsible for all this evil that had befallen him. Job attributed evil to God-NOT to Satan-and did NOT sin in doing so. Satan was merely God's agent of judgment or testing, not an independent god outside of God's control. It is much like the way God uses human agencies to judge or test people. For example, God used Assyria to judge Israel, and He used Babylon to judge Judah and Jerusalem.
Many other passages in the Bible attribute evil to God. Most of them are where God attributes evil to Himself. Such verses take on a whole new meaning when we contrast it to Persian Dualism, which made an extreme attempt to separate all evil from God and make God and Satan equal in power. The Bible was certainly NOT influenced by such man-made ideas that elevate Satan's power to that of God Himself. There are no other gods beside Him. No one even comes close.
The Laws of Creation and Liability
The book of Genesis knows only the overriding law of creation, which says that the Creator is always greater than the creature. This is so, because a creator owns and is responsible for that which he creates. By this law, farmers own what they produce, and carpenters own what they build. It is the basis of all laws of private ownership.
Ownership is really little more than authority, because to own something means that a person has the authoritative right to use it as he sees fit. But with all authority comes an equal level of responsibility, or liability. And so, by this law, we find that men are liable for the actions of the animals they own (Exodus 22:5). If a fire destroys someone's property, the one liable is he who started the fire, for he is the creator and owner of that fire (Exodus 22:6). These liability laws are only derived from the original and more fundamental law of creation when used to determine liability.
It is self-evident that man was created with a potential to sin. God could have created man in a perfect state, incapable of sinning. Christians are also generally agreed that God did this deliberately, that it was not a "mistake" or an oversight on His part. In fact, it was necessary that man have a potential to sin.
We also learn from Genesis that God placed Adam and Eve in Eden, which contained both a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). Furthermore, He placed in that garden a tempter; or perhaps some might prefer to say He ALLOWED a tempter to invade the garden. At any rate, no one should dispute the fact that the tempter entered with God's knowledge, and the fact that God could have prevented this if He had chosen to do so.
So God created man with the potential to sin, provided man with the opportunity to sin, and then allowed the tempter to provoke the sin. The book of Genesis tells this story without any thought of objection or argument. Yet if we study the divine law as given to Moses, we find some serious moral objections that must be overcome.
Most Christians construct their philosophy of the origins of good and evil on the argument that God did not FORCE Adam to sin but only ALLOWED it, and that such permission on God's part is necessary to preserve God's integrity and man's free will. This reasoning has some merit, of course, on the human level, as we have already explained. We appreciate the fact that people want to preserve God's integrity. However, the argument that God merely allowed the sin to occur does not really resolve the problem. It only REDUCES the problem. James 4:17 gives us a general principle of divine law that applies to this situation:
17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.
The fact is, WE ARE our brother's keeper (Gen. 4:9). If it is within our power to prevent our brother from being injured or from suffering loss in any way, and we do not help, we are liable for the loss. When applied to man, whose goal is obedience to God's will (thelema), failure to keep this law is sin. When applied to God, however, it is a little different, because He operates on boulema, the divine plan, the overall intention, the blueprint for history. And so we must keep in mind that although God deliberately incurs liability, it is within His plan to do this. Therefore, it is not sin to Him, so long as He does not fail in His overall purpose. This law on the prevention of evil is further expanded in the liability laws of Exodus 21.
1. The Ox in the Pit
Exodus 21:33 and 34 tells us:
33 And if a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his.
The owner of the pit is liable even if he did not physically force the ox into the pit. The fact remains that he ALLOWED it to happen by digging the pit and not covering it. He is liable on the grounds that he could have prevented it but did not. He created the OPPORTUNITY for the ox to fall into the pit. And so, the divine law rules that the man who opened the pit is legally liable and must pay restitution to the animal's owner.
In applying the spirit of this law to Adam's situation in the garden, God is both the owner of the pit and the owner of the ox (Adam). First, God dug a pit, because he created an opportunity for Adam to sin. God did not cover this pit in that He created Adam with the potential to sin and created a tree of knowledge, putting it within Adam's reach. God created an opportunity for Adam (the ox) to fall into the pit (sin and death). That made God legally liable by His own law and created a "tension" that demanded a resolution.
The lawful solution is that restitution must be made. The final result is that "the dead animal shall become his." So God bought the dead ox (Adam and all who died in Adam), and the ox became His. Is not this why Jesus came? He fulfilled the law to the letter, purchasing all who died in Adam.
This law was not only made to regulate men's liability; God enacted it deliberately to make Himself liable, so He could fulfill the law and resolve the tension in creation at the final Jubilee.
2. Consuming the Field
This principle of liability is found again in Exodus 22:5, to which we shall add some phrases that appear in the Septuagint version, but not in the King James Version or in the New American Standard.
5 "If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose [deliberately] so that it grazes in another man's field, he shall make restitution [out of his own field according to the yield thereof; and if the whole field be eaten, of the best of his own field, and] from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.
The owner of the ox is liable. He cannot excuse himself by saying, "I didn't FORCE the ox to eat the neighbor's grass; the ox did it all by himself." No, the owner is liable simply because he is the owner.
So how is the liable party to pay restitution? The law says, "an eye for an eye," which in this case is "field for field." Jesus said, "the field is the world" (Matt. 13:38). God ALLOWED one of his "beasts" or creatures (the serpent) to feed in another man's field. Furthermore, the "whole field" was eaten, for all men have been consumed by sin.
What kind of "grass" did this beast consume? It was Adam and Eve and ultimately all of mankind, for "all flesh is as grass" (1 Peter 1:24). Here was another temporary injustice, a tension that needed to be resolved to harmonize the spheres. God honored and upheld His own law of liability, and "the best of his own field" (Jesus) was given to man as restitution.
3. The Railing on the Roof
In ancient times, houses had stairs leading up to the flat roof, where people could enjoy the breeze in the cool of the day. And so a railing was required as a safety precaution. Deuteronomy 22:8 gives us the law:
8 When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet [railing] for your roof, that you may not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.
If you were to deliberately PUSH someone off the roof, and he died as a result, you would be liable for first degree murder, and the penalty would be death. But if you just neglected to build a railing and someone fell and were killed, you would be liable only for involuntary manslaughter. The sentence is reduced, but you would still be liable and must flee to the city of refuge until the death of the high priest (Deut. 19:1-4).
When God allowed Adam to fall, and when God allowed the tempter to tempt Adam, He left the railing off the roof. He did not take the safety precaution required by His own law that would have prevented Adam and Eve from falling. And so, when God walked in the garden "in the cool of the day" (Gen. 3:8), He found that Adam and Eve had fallen off the roof. God became liable, and the result was tension. This liability would have to last until the death of the High Priest. Jesus had to come as the true High Priest of the temple in heaven and die, in order to release God from the liability incurred and strike the chord that would again bring harmony to the sphere of the universe.
Such liability laws are absolutely righteous in the eyes of God. We would do well to take heed to them ourselves. The world is already full of people who would stand by and watch someone being murdered on the streets of the city. These bystanders do not actually commit the crime themselves, so they think they are absolved of any liability. But God's law holds them liable if they do nothing to prevent the crime from being carried out. They are their brother's keeper.
Some think the law has been nullified. But never was the law upheld so firmly as when Jesus came to die in order to pay the full penalty that the law demanded. When Adam fell into the pit that He left open, Jesus paid the price and bought the dead animal. When the whole field was consumed, God gave the best of His own field. When Adam fell off the roof of the house that God had built without a railing, Jesus, the High Priest, died to release God from the law's debt. How, then, can anyone think that he is free of liability that even God bound Himself to pay?
We cannot absolve God of liability by saying, "Well, He did not FORCE Adam to fall. Adam did that all on his own by his own free will." Even if that were true, and God's liability would only be reduced. It does NOT absolve Him of all liability. Not according to His own law.
Some may blame the devil (serpent), and indeed, God does hold him partially liable (Gen. 3:4). But once again, the serpent is like any other "beast" that is created and therefore owned by God by the law of Creation. Like the ox that ate the neighbor's field, so also did the serpent consume God's "fruit" (in this case, Adam and Eve). One may blame the devil for doing the actual deed, but one can never legally absolve God of all liability. To incur legal liability, God only had to ALLOW the situation to occur when He could have prevented it. Yet this is not to say that God sinned in doing this. To sin is to fail to achieve a goal. God is not a failure. All of this was built into the plan. God created the tension, and God will resolve it-and already has resolved it by the Cross.
4. The Ox that Gored
There is another of God's laws that apply here. Exodus 21:28-31 says,
28 And if an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. 29 If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring, and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him. 31 Whether it gores a son or a daughter, it shall be done to him according to the same rule.
The serpent, or Satan, caused death to come upon Adam and all mankind. The spirit of the law says that the offending beast must then be confined in order to prevent this from ever happening again. If not, the owner must pay with his life. Did God confine Satan? No. Satan will not be confined until the Tabernacles Age (Rev. 20:1-3). There are some who believe that Satan was confined when Jesus died on the Cross. Either way, God did not confine Satan for thousands of years, during which time he continued to tempt mankind and bring them to ruin.
After bringing Adam and Eve into mortality, God sentenced the serpent to eating dust and crawling on his belly. (Precisely how literal or figurative this is to be interpreted is not relevant to our point.) God did not confine the tempter. Satan soon struck again, working through Cain to kill Abel. This made God liable. Once again, a discordant note was struck upon the strings of history. It brings tension to our musical ears, and by the law of music we demand a harmonious resolution-the restoration of all that was lost in Adam through the blood of Jesus Christ.
God deliberately made Himself liable, not only for Adam's death, but for the death of Adam's sons and daughters (vs. 31) as well. Was a "ransom" (vs. 30) demanded of God as a result of the liability? Whether demanded or not, Jesus voluntarily gave Himself as a ransom for ALL (1 Timothy 2:6). The demand is defined in Exodus 21 as "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth," etc. And so we see Christ coming down to earth in the form of a man to pay "life for life" all the demands of His own law.
None of this makes God a sinner, for He has not failed in fulfilling ANY of His plans and purposes for creation. He planned all this tension from the beginning. He made Himself liable for the sins of the whole world and then paid its full penalty, and this is plainly stated in the revelation of His law.
If we were to ask WHY He did it this way, we would ultimately have to plead ignorance and merely accept by faith that He did indeed do it this way. If we object to it, we must re-state Paul's answer in Romans 9,
20 Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
Good and Evil are Subject to Time
Before anything physical was created, God created time. In the Bible, time is divided into ages, and then each age is further subdivided into Jubilees (49-year periods), sabbath rest years (seven-year cycles), years, months, and days. This world-order is subject to time. This not only includes the physical creation, but also the ideas and concepts that go with it, including authority, justice, good and evil.
In ancient Greek mythology, Chronos ("Time") was said to be the son of Earth and Heaven. He was brought to birth by Heaven (i.e., created by God), but only by means of the Earth. It was meant to portray the idea that time is temporary. In fact, mythology said that Chronos devoured his children, because all that is begotten of time will eventually be consumed by time as well.
Good and evil are children of time, and as such will be swallowed up when time is no more. Since good and evil are defined by the law of God, it is apparent that the law itself as such will also pass away. Jesus made reference to this in Matthew 5:18.
18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.
When all is fulfilled at some future time, then and only then will the law pass away. It is yet with us today; but at the end of time, it will pass away along with the concepts of good and evil.
Paul told Timothy that the law was not made for the righteous but for the unrighteous, the lawless, the sinners. The law will no longer be needed at the end of time, for all will instinctively obey and glorify God in every way. In fact, this is the ultimate goal of the New Covenant. Hebrews 8:10 and 11 says,
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.
Good and evil are products of time, not eternity. They deal with questions of defining law, which will pass away when no longer needed. It will be the same with faith, which passes away by "sight." It will be the same with hope, which passes away when its object is realized. Of the great three concepts, only love will transcend time and will last forever (1 Cor. 13:13).
Good and Evil Can Only Exist Together
The tree in the garden of Eden contained within its fruit the knowledge of BOTH good and evil. Man does not learn one without the other. The condition that Adam was in before the fall is commonly called "innocence," because he knew neither good nor evil. The very word "good" implies its opposite, and the awareness of one demands the awareness of the other.
This is the blackboard effect that is seen all through creation. What is justice without injustice with which to compare it? If all men are just, then neither justice nor injustice have any relevance, and some may even question their existence. What is beauty without ugliness? What is light without darkness? What is peace without conflict?
This is the tension that God built into creation. The Persians saw it clearly and called it balance, or equilibrium, but they could not penetrate the veil beyond the bounds of time. And so they could perceive only that good and evil were equal in power, both being (they assumed) eternal.
It was the revealed thelema will of God that Adam and Eve NOT eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God clearly told them NOT to eat of that tree (Gen. 2:17). However, we believe that it was in God's boulema plan that men receive the knowledge of both good and evil. Just as Pharaoh could not resist God's boulema plan, neither could Adam and Eve resist it. It was in the plan, and for this reason Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 17:8).
We cannot, in this present age, fully understand why God chose to do it this way, but we accept it, because this is the revelation of Scripture. Furthermore, it has been revealed in Scripture that at the end of time, the curses of evil will be abundantly overcompensated by the blessings of good (Romans 8:18). This can only occur if evil is abolished, along with the greatest of evils, the last enemy-death.
We are constrained, therefore, to believe that all things will indeed work out for good, not merely for "the called" in the restricted sense, but in the widest sense (Rom. 8:28). It must include all men, for all men were affected by evil at the first. God's liability laws, if nothing else, constrain us to believe this. Otherwise God would be left as eternally unjust, and this we cannot believe.
Although good and evil must always be equally existent, this does not mean that they are equal in power. If they were equal in power, then time might never end. Time can only end when evil is totally overcome. There will be no sudden divine rush at the end of the age to snatch the good out of the jaws of a victorious evil. There will never be any doubt as to the outcome of this present conflict. Each age has a progressive revelation and outpouring of the Spirit of God, which will, in the end, enable the good to overcome all evil.
When that victory has abolished all evil, then good itself will also cease to exist, for there will no longer be any evil to give meaning to the good. Good itself will be swallowed up in the BETTER covenant (Hebrews 11:40).
Good Out of Evil
Even in the first few ages of time, when evil has the appearance of ascendancy and power, its power is only an illusion. Evil itself is real, at least on the earthly level, but it is only a precursor to good. Even as the liver uses beta-carotene to manufacture vitamin A, so also does God use evil to create good. It is all a part of God's plan in order to reveal to those who know His ways how God can and does turn all evil into good.
1. The Judgments of the Law
The judgments of the law are a necessary evil in order to bring ultimate good to the general populace. A nation must have just laws with judgments for their infraction in order to maintain stability and discourage injustices against one another. So it is with the laws of God.
We have also seen that God's judgments are given for the purpose of rehabilitating the sinner. When the court demands that the thief pay his victim double restitution, it is not only to recompense the victim for his loss, but also to teach the thief to work, rather than to steal. This allows the sinner to pay his debt to the victim, giving the sinner a sense of accomplishment and forgiveness. This is why it is of the greatest importance that the system not cripple him either physically or socially that would prevent him from working.
One of the worst injustices of the judicial system today is that when inmates are released from prison, they often find it very difficult to find work. Society never really forgives them for their sin, because they have not given the sinner opportunity to pay restitution for his crime. We criticize the Muslims for chopping off a thief's hand, because we say it is cruel. The Bible's concern is that it handicaps him in finding lawful employment in the future. Yet because we do not seem to share the Bible's concern in this important matter, we handicap him socially, if not physically. This is a sin that is perpetrated upon the sinners.
There are, of course, certain sins where man's law enforcement is incapable of bringing good out of evil. That is why God instituted the death penalty for sins for which man cannot restore the lawful order or repay restitution to the victims (for example, first-degree murder or kidnapping). Such sins must usually await a higher court at the last judgment, where resurrection restores life to the murder victim, and where it is finally possible for even the worst sinners to pay restitution for all capital crimes. In that day it will prove to be not a problem for God to right all wrongs, and more so, to bring good out of evil.
A truly godly court here on earth would be one that seeks the good of both victim and sinner in every possible case. There are also some cases where appeals are made to the higher court of God in this present age, without having to await the final judgment at the Great White Throne. David, for example, committed both murder and adultery, but his case was judged directly by God, because David repented and appealed the case to Him directly. God did judge David with wars and family troubles for the rest of his life. It was a lake of fire to him, a "second death," but well worth it in the long run. His present evil was turned into good, for David understood the purpose of God's judgments. In submitting to the judgment and purification of God in this age, David avoided judgment in the next age, and God called him "a man after His own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14).
At the Great White Throne Judgment, the law will go forth to right all the wrongs that remain in a state of tension. Yet even here, it serves a dual purpose: to recompense the victim, and to teach the sinner righteousness. It gives justice to the victim and forgiveness to the sinner.
The following is a very basic example of how God brings evil upon both evildoers and believers for a good purpose.
2. Joseph and His Brethren
Joseph had a very special calling. His father knew it (Genesis 37:10,11); his brothers knew it (Genesis 37:8); and obviously, Joseph himself knew it. But like all young people (and some older folks as well), he needed some seasoning, and God had the perfect plan for this. There is nothing like adversity to mature and balance us, provided we do not become bitter against God. Adversity brings the elect (as Jacob-Israel) to maturity and the non-elect (as Esau-Edom) to a state of bitterness.
Joseph's brethren sold him as a slave into the land of Egypt. There Joseph matured in Christ as a slave and in the dungeon for twelve years, while Jacob mourned the loss of his son, whom he thought was dead. The suspense and tension in the story is breathtaking.
Finally, God brought the sons of Jacob into Egypt to buy grain during a famine, and by this time Joseph had become the Prime Minister of the land. Joseph soon revealed himself to them, and the family moved to Egypt, where Joseph cared for them. But when Jacob died, Joseph's brethren became uneasy, thinking that Joseph would still carry a grudge against them for selling him into slavery. Joseph's answer is a classic, which shows not only love, but also a deep understanding of the mind and plan of God. Genesis 50:19 and 20 says:
19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? 20 And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
Joseph had matured spiritually and recognized the sovereignty of God in all things. He knew from personal experience that God had worked all things for good in his own life. Joseph's brethren had indeed "thought evil" against him. They had deliberately sinned against him by selling him into slavery, and so they had violated the thelema short-term will of God. This was undeniable.
But Joseph also recognized that all this had been a necessary part of God's boulema long-term plan, in order to bring life to many people. It was God's plan from the beginning that Joseph rule in Egypt; but in order to mature him and prepare him for that calling, God saw fit either to cause or allow his brethren to do him evil, which God then turned into good.
If Joseph had escaped from prison before the time, or if he had been released early, no doubt he would have gone immediately home to his father. After all, he must have realized that his father, Jacob, was heartbroken at his disappearance. It speaks volumes that after Joseph was elevated to Prime Minister, he did nothing to inform his father of his whereabouts for nine years. All through the seven years of plenty, Joseph remained hidden. In the first year of the famine, his brothers came to buy grain, but he still did not reveal himself to them. Not until the second year of the famine, nine years after his elevation, did Joseph reveal his identity to them. His silence was an act of faith. Such faith and patience can only be explained by spiritual maturity.
When Joseph was yet in the prison before being elevated to Prime Minister of Egypt, God taught him the principles of faith. It took years for Joseph to come to grips with his circumstances. It must have taken years to forgive his brothers for their sin against him. It must have taken quite some time to forgive God for allowing all this evil to happen to him. When he finally learned that God's purpose was not to punish him but to teach him to rest in God's disciplines, when he finally understood that God had directed his circumstances with the view to his good, and when he finally learned to give thanks in everything-then he was ready to enter his calling. When he came into agreement with God and could rest in Him, knowing that he was precisely where God wanted him to be for the moment-then he had the kind of faith God required for such a high calling.
Joseph's elevation to Prime Minister proved to him that that God had used all this evil for a good purpose. Joseph's bitterness toward his brethren was then fully overcome, for he now could actually THANK them for what they did to him.
There are so many Christians today who do not know this great truth. They are out there fighting the devil every day, instead of glorifying God. They see the evil that Joseph's brethren did and lose their composure, because they do not see the hand of God working all things out for good and for the glory of God. They view Satan as the creator of evil in the world, without recognizing that all of God's adversaries are His servants, sent to execute judgments and perfect the elect.
All of God's people experience evil in some manner-some more than others. At first, we are shaken and tend to react to the evil, rather than look to God for the reason and purpose in our lives. While we are yet spiritually young, we do not see the hand of God in evil things, and so we fight the evildoers, or Satan. In doing this, we take our eyes off Jesus even as Peter did, and we begin to look at the wind and waves around us. Soon we find ourselves overwhelmed by the problem. Yet we see Jesus walking on the water, totally unaffected by the same wind and the same waves. He did not calm the sea to make it easier for Peter to walk on it. He desired that Peter learn to focus on Him, without being distracted and motivated by outward circumstances.
Focusing upon the evil around us only makes us bitter, because we soon find that there is always more evil than we can overcome. The key to eradicating all bitterness from the heart is to understand the purpose of evil and to know why God had brought it into our lives. Only when we have seen God's good purpose will all bitterness melt away. Without an experiential knowledge of how God works everything out for their good, Christians today cannot truly enter God's rest. They cannot truly give thanks to God in everything, if they still view their difficult circumstances as a curse from Satan. They will remain in their own prison until they learn how to declare the Jubilee and make its principles a way of life.
3. David Numbers Israel
When Israel fell into sin during the last part of David's rule, we read the following in 2 Samuel 24.
1 Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah."
The same story is told in 1 Chronicles 21:1, but here we find an interesting difference in the story: "Then SATAN stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel." We might ask, who caused David to sin? Was it God or Satan? Or perhaps it was David himself, since we see later that David took full credit for his sin (2 Sam. 24:10). The fact is, all three were involved, but on different levels. David took the proper attitude in taking responsibility for his sin. On the level of God's thelema will, David had violated the Law by not collecting the soldier's ransom (a half-shekel each, Exodus 30:12-16) to atone for their souls, that they not die in battle. In exposing them to mortal danger, he sinned and therefore needed to repent. But yet 1 Chronicles 21:1 claims it was Satan who tempted David to sin. On the highest level of God's boulema plan, God takes full credit for doing it (2 Samuel 24:1).
This is not a contradiction, any more than where one report says, "The President won the battle;" another says, "General Quadsteller won the battle;" and a third report says, "Our brave soldiers won the battle." All three are correct, but on differing levels of truth.
In this case, God wanted the job done, and so He did it through Satan, who tempted David to do the actual sin. And once again, God's plan was carried out perfectly. David sinned, because he failed to observe divine law; God did NOT sin, because He succeeded in His plan.
What was that plan? It was first to judge Israel for sin. Secondly, the plan was to expose David's lack of the knowledge of sin, so that he could correct it. Thirdly, it was to provide opportunity for David to purchase the threshingfloor of Ornan, which was to become the future site of the temple of Solomon. Once again, God had a plan, an overall goal. He could have gotten there without the problem and conflict with evil, but he did not. Turning evil into good was also part of the plan.
4. The Lesson of Job
The book of Job is the treatise that God inspired in order to teach us the subservience of Satan. While some may believe that "Satan" here is only a human being, it matters little for our purposes. Either way, the principle is maintained. Satan needed permission from God to do anything to Job. God gave him such permission in 2:6 and 7.
6 So the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life." 7 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
What follows is a commentary on the reason and purpose of suffering in the earth. Job had three friends who each argued from a different point of view, but none of them understood the mind of God.
Eliphaz argued from human experience: you reap what you sow in life, so Job's troubles are because he must have sinned.
Bildad said his problem was bad karma: Job's troubles are because he sinned in a past life and is now paying for it in this present life.
Zophar argued from human merit: all are born rebellious and are responsible to purify their own hearts to avoid these judgments of God. Wisdom and purity will merit God's favor.
Almost all men would answer in one of these three ways. The religions of the East argue like Bildad. The Greek philosophers and many Christians would argue like Zophar. Phariseeism and much of modern Christianity would ague like Eliphaz. Yet they all fell short of understanding the mind of God, because they did not comprehend the plan and purpose of God. Only Elihu had the answer, which we will summarize:
"You think that you are more just than God. You have said there is no gain in trusting in His righteousness. You have questioned if perhaps there is more profit in NOT following Him. When men are oppressed by a tyrant, they cry out for help, but no one ever seems to ask God for answers. When they do, He does not answer because of their pride in thinking that God is unjust and unfairly treating them. If the righteous are bound in the stocks with trials, it is that he may show them their deeds and their sins which have sprung from pride. In this way he opens their ears and instructs them to turn from their iniquity. If they hear His voice, they will prosper in peace and righteousness; if not, they will perish by the sword and die not knowing why. So take heed. Do not tell God, 'You have done wrong.' Remember to extol His work, rather than tell Him how to run the universe."
As it turns out, Job's troubles came only because God wanted him to understand that we must not be bitter against God for allowing us to have adversity. We must not accuse God of being unfair or unjust toward us.
When evil comes upon us, our pride immediately begins to surface. We treat God as though he were unjust. Such an attitude presupposes that we know better than God what justice really is. And so God sends adversity upon us, even to our breaking point, in order that we may obtain a deeper understanding of the justice of God. We learn that His "injustices" are only temporary, and that He knows how to turn these "evils" into good.
Once we really begin to believe this, we enter upon the true life of faith, where we view all our adversaries ultimately as tools of God to train us as His sons and daughters. That is the place of rest, which God invites us to enter today.
5. The Death of Jesus
It could be said that the death of Jesus was the worst evil ever done in the world. Yet what Christian could doubt that it was also the greatest good? Can there be any doubt that God turned the greatest evil into the greatest good? The crucifixion became the instrument of the salvation of the world.
Once again, God's thelema will was thwarted in order to accomplish the hidden boulema plan of God. God's will was that all men everywhere accept Him as the Messiah. God's plan was that he would be "despised and rejected" (Isaiah 53:3). His death was an integral part of the plan. Without His death on the cross, the whole plan would have failed, and God would have become a sinner.
Caiaphas could no more have refused to crucify Jesus than Pharaoh could have let Israel go. It was all part of the plan. Caiaphas was held liable, of course, even as Pharaoh, Esau, and even David were held liable. Yet the liability is limited to the level of the thelema will. God alone takes responsibility for the boulema plan.
Did Caiaphas sin in doing this? Yes, of course he did. Did God sin? Absolutely NOT. God did not fail in the goal that was set before Him by the counsel of His own will. In the divine plan Jesus was crucified from the foundation of the world.
When men do evil (as defined by the divine law), it is sin to them, because they violate the standard that God has given to men. When God does evil, it is always in accordance with His plan, which is His own standard of measure. If this sounds unfair or unjust, we simply refer the reader to the book of Job for a lesson in pride. We are not God; we are not always capable of bringing good out of evil, as He is. Our concept of justice and righteousness is warped by the death that resides in our souls. We need, above all, to have faith in Him that He knows what He is doing, and He does all things well.
The Tension Resolved
Universal reconciliation is God's final solution to the tension in creation brought about by the "temporary injustices" which He Himself instituted. The divine law defines the judicial question by insisting that God take responsibility for all "injustices" that He does or allows to be done. The Biblical account leaves us no alternative but to justify God by universal reconciliation. No other solution is adequate to ease the tension that He imposed upon creation by subjecting all to futility. Only when we recognize this can we resolve the greatest philosophical question ever conceived by man-the origin, purpose, and end of all evil.